UNION COUNTY, NJ — The success of the sports programs in Union County this fall were about as spread out as they could be, which is a good thing. It shows that not just one school dominates all sports when it comes to capturing county championship crowns.
Of the seven sports, not including football, six different schools produced county champions.
Although, for the first time in 15 years, there were no sectional state champions from Union County in the sport of football, for the second straight season 11 of the 17 Union County football playing schools did make the playoffs and three, Summit, Union and Westfield, managed to win a playoff game before being eliminated in semifinal round play.
Schools that won county championships in the other sports included Elizabeth, Summit, Westfield, Oak Knoll, Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Union Catholic.
Here’s a closer look:
• Boys soccer: Frank J. Cicarell Academy, Elizabeth;
• Girls soccer: Summit High School, for the first time;
• Girls volleyball: Westfield High School;
• Field hockey: Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child;
• Gymnastics: Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School, for the fifth straight season;
• Boys cross country: Union Catholic High School; and
• Girls cross country: Union Catholic High School,
Elizabeth defeated Union 1-0 in overtime in the boys soccer UCT final at Arthur L. Johnson High School’s Nolan Field in Clark. Elizabeth captured the crown outright for the first time since 2008. The Minutemen shared the title with Summit in 2019 and Westfield in 2017.
There are no longer co-champs since kicks from the penalty mark have been added after two overtime periods to determine the winner.
Elizabeth, which has now won the third-most UCT titles with seven, received the game’s only goal from Steven Zuniga with Cesar Larios getting credit for an assist.
Elizabeth goalkeeper Andrew Gonzalez made four saves for the championship game shutout, while Union goalkeeper Kayden Grave also excelled and came up with nine.
Union was attempting to win the UCT outright for the first time since 1999. The Farmers shared the crown with Westfield in 2018.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood has won the most boys soccer UCT championships with 19 and Westfield is second with 15.
Elizabeth, guided by head coach Jacques Gonzales, finished 16-4 after falling at home to Westfield 2-1 in the North 2, Group 4 semifinals.
Union, guided by head coach Lester Lembryk since 2008, came in at 11-3-2. Union was also ousted by Westfield in the North 2, Group 4 playoffs, falling at Westfield, 4-2 in the quarterfinal round.
Westfield got past Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the North 2, Group 4 final by winning kicks from the penalty mark, 3-2, after there was no score following regulation and overtime.
The Blue Devils, led by head coach Eric Shaw who starred as a goalkeeper for Union High School and Seton Hall University and then was the head coach of the girls soccer team at Union, finished at 13-5-4, after they were defeated at Kearny, 3-2, in the Group 4 semifinals.
Kearny was then downed by Princeton 3-2 at Franklin in the Nov. 11 Group 4 state championship game. Princeton claimed the crown outright for the first time since 2009.
Summit captured the girls soccer UCT championship for the first time by blanking Oak Knoll 1-0 in overtime in the final played at Arthur L. Johnson. Catalina Zumbado scored the game’s only goal, with an assist going to Nell Ducey.
Goalie Catherine King made five saves for the title contest shutout. Head coach Matt Carder’s Hilltoppers finished a fine season at 13-5-2.
Westfield won the girls volleyball UCT crown at Kean University’s Harwood Arena in Union by defeating Union Catholic in two games, 25-17 and 25-21.
Both teams closed with 21 victories with Westfield finishing 21-5 and Union Catholic 21-7.
In the field hockey UCT championship game played at Oak Knoll’s field in Chatham, it was host Oak Knoll shutting out in-town rival Summit, 4-0, behind goals scored in each of the four quarters by Lilly Venezia, Hope Russo, Laila Pasic and Phoebe Laferriere.
Oak Knoll goaltender Kristen Shindle made two saves for the championship game win, while her counterpart in net, Summit goalkeeper Molly Fagan, did well to make 11 saves.
In the Union County gymnastics meet at four-time defending champion Scotch Plains-Fanwood, it was the Raiders winning again for the fifth straight season with a final team score of 108.675.
Placing second for the third year in a row was SPF’s arch rival, Westfield, with a score of 107.775. Coming in third was Cranford High School with a point total of 105.000.
Winning the All-Around title was sophomore sensation Mia Altobelli of Cranford with an impressive score of 37.225. Altobelli was first in the floor exercise at 9.625, first in beam at 9.3 and first in bars at 9.1.
Lailah Willis of Union was first in the vault competition at 9.4.
Guided by head coach Marissa DiBella, Scotch Plains-Fanwood finished with a winning record of 9-2.
The Union Catholic Vikings captured both the boys cross country and girls cross country Union County championships and each did so in dominating fashion.
Jimmy Wischusen won the boys race at Warinanco Park in a time of 15.12. Union Catholic had four of the top five finishers and won the team standings with a total of 26 points. Westfield was second at 35 and Summit third at 89.
Peyton Hollis captured the girls race at Warinanco in a time of 17:52. The Vikings had the top six finishers and won the team standings with a total of 15 points. Summit was second at 71 and Westfield third at 79.
Photo Courtesy of Lester Lembryk